James Deane is from the neighbouring Isle of Islay and is a very talented photographer, although he started just a few years ago. You probably won’t believe me when you see the images here and on his website but it’s true. James visited the Isle of Jura early March and walked through miles of boggy terrain to the top of Beinn an Òir, the Mountain of Gold. Beinn an Òir is one of the Paps of Jura and is in fact the only Corbett on the island with 785m/2576 ft. A Corbett is a mountain in Scotland between 2500 and 3000 ft. Mountains above 3000ft are called Munros. Climbing one of the Paps is hard enough as it is with beautiful conditions in the summer but when the Paps have a layer of the white stuff and we’re talking March, late winter that is, it’s a whole different ball game. Especially if it’s quite hard to predict how thick the layer of snow on top is. The conditions were rather poor when James started as you can read below in his excellent travel report:
Never mind the forecast, the weather sucked. Not only did the morning suggest poor photography, but it also wasn’t the most pleasant conditions for a walk. Grey, gloomy and cold with a cloud base of around 400 metres, it certainly wasn’t the best. Still, I had decided on a walk up the Paps and I was keen to get on with it. In addition to the aforementioned biscuits, I was loaded with hot soup, chilli crisps, outdoor kit and of course lenses… Very heavy lenses! I should have rationalised my load here, but it was one of kitchen sink moments where I convinced myself of the apparent need for every focal length between 10mm and 400mm.”
The most exciting element was guessing whether each footfall would sink 6 inches or 3 feet into the peaty gloop. Climbing up on to the saddle between Beinn an Òir and Beinn Shiantaidh saw matters get a little hairy, and I was now within the cloud base and also above the snow line. I guess motivation was fair to moderate (becoming good) at this stage, having negotiated the lowlands I was now hitting the stairs, so to speak.
Anyone familiar with the paps will know that they are a serious undertaking. Whilst not especially high, they are remote from civilisation, steep, covered in loose scree and most importantly Scottish. This final point (combined with winter conditions) means that you shouldn’t really under-estimate them, and I would only advise experience winter hillwalkers attempt them in these conditions.
I knew that there was a diagonal line across the East face, but finding it in a whiteout was pretty tricky. The next hour or so was to be quite a test as I navigated onwards and upwards in the snow. I’m never afraid of admitting defeat in these situations and I made a decision at around 600m to abandon the climb but when the skies cleared briefly and offerred the first visibility in hours I took this a good sign and within a few minutes I was on the summit ridge. I was met with fierce South Westerlies and the wispy cloud was flying past. The scenery below was flicking in and out of visibility by the second. It was pretty exhilerating to be up there, and I moved freely and happily along the ridge to the actual summit.
In the gallery you can see the actual views James enjoyed and I believe the word breathtaking describes pretty much what he saw that day! Make sure to visit the website of James Deane for lots more beautiful photography on www.jamesdeanephotography.com